In New England, 'Next Man Up' Isn't Enough

Greg A. Bedard
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… And 10

Sunday Slate

Wanna go beyond the obvious storylines? Andy Benoit takes a deep dive to preview Week 7's games.

1. Coordinator John Pagano and the Chargers defense had one of the performances of the season on Monday night against Andrew Luck and the Colts. There were several drops by Indianapolis players, but that shouldn’t cover up the fact that Luck did not play well, and that was mostly because the Chargers spun the dial defensively. They constantly changed coverages and pressure packages. Luck never had a clean picture of what San Diego was doing, and that caused him to leave plays on the field. Not a good sign going into the showdown with the Broncos, but Jack Del Rio’s defense is not nearly as sophisticated. The man who keyed it all was Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle, who doesn’t get nearly as much attention as he should. I don’t know if there’s a safety, with Ed Reed in the twilight, who combines smarts and physical play quite as well. He was terrific against the Colts.

2. Speaking of the Chargers, my vote for one of the early plays of the year was the 22-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter from Philip Rivers to rookie Keenan Allen. Sure, the play was butchered by third-string safety Delano Howell (26), but what was amazing was that when Rivers released the ball (picture 2), Allen had another 15 yards to run with two defenders around him. It was a sensational play by both Rivers and Allen, and showed the immense confidence Rivers has in the third-round pick.

3. Impressive starts for the rookie receiver group this season. A.J. Green (65), Mike Williams (65), Justin Blackmon (64) and Kendall Wright (64) have set the bar in recent years for rookie receivers. Considering the improvement most first-year pass catchers show over the course of the season, Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins (25 catches), St. Louis’ Tavon Austin (24), Allen (23) and Kenbrell Thompkins (21) could all match or exceed those numbers.




4. Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, the $96 million man, has to be the most bored NFL player. He played about two snaps of man coverage against the Eagles, continuing a season-long theme. It’d be fine if it was effective, but rookie Nick Foles completely ate up the Bucs’ predictable coverage looks. There are two reasons the Bucs wouldn’t just be using Revis in his normal man coverage role to benefit the rest of the unit: either coach Greg Schiano and coordinator Bill Sheridan are just that stubborn about running their system (then why spend all that money?), or the Bucs don’t feel that Revis, after ACL surgery, is ready for the stress of running man-to-man all game. Either is plausible.

5. That being said, Sheridan has to do better than this response to fan criticism over his handling of Revis: “Well, what I want to invite them to do is to join us. I get here about 5:20 every single morning and they’re more than welcome to hang around until about 11 for the first four nights of the week. And they can help us put the whole game plan together. We’ve got all the free Cokes you could want in the building and we’ll be happy to take their suggestions on how they can better use Darrelle. Trust me when I tell you we painstakingly game plan how best to use all of our personnel, not just Darrelle. But I appreciate the chirping.’’

6. A bigger problem for the job security of Schiano and Sheridan would be if some of the defensive players started to give questionable effort. It seems they are. NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell first brought up this possibility—without naming names—on his podcast. After reviewing the tape, Cosell may be on to something, although it doesn’t appear to be widespread—yet. On the Eagles’ final drive of the game, linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster showed little interest getting off blocks or pursuing plays away from him. On his final play with 4:29 left, Foster gave his best effort on the drive and appeared to get fallen on. He left with a right leg injury and didn’t return. He didn’t appear on the injury report this week. If this is really happening, it’s a bad sign for Schiano. And it’s a shame for a player like David, who has played very well for the most part this season.

7. Also not a good look: Patriots team doctor Thomas Gill confronting reporter Mike Petraglia in the locker room over his Rob Gronkowski surgery article following the win over the Saints. Gill is certainly within his right to take issue if he thought something was incorrect or unfair, but if you’re not going to do it for the record, what’s the point of making in a scene in the locker room after one of the most thrilling Patriots’ regular-season victories in recent memory?

Game Plan

Peter King previews the epic Broncos-Colts showdown, and more of what he's looking forward to watching in Week 7.

8. Looking forward to seeing how the Packers deal with not having injured receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb against the Browns. That could end up being one of the more entertaining games of the weekend, as long as Brandon Weeden can resist the urge to throw backhanded or lefthanded. The Browns’ defense is really playing well, and now gets Jabaal Sheard back—their most consistent pass rusher.

9. The Titans made the right call in replacing center Rob Turner with rookie Brian Schwenke. I’ll be watching rookie right guard Chance Warmack after this switch. This could make the 10th overall pick’s struggles—he’s been almost nearly as poor as Turner—stand out even more.

10. I would be surprised if Michael Vick got his job back as Eagles starting quarterback when he returns from a hamstring injury. Nick Foles showed enough good traits against the Bucs to hang onto the job for a while longer. Being a leader seems to come naturally, and he sees the game from the pocket well, easily going through his progressions to find the right receiver most of the time. Eagles coach Chip Kelly may be going through the same thought process his predecessor, Andy Reid, did in 2010 when he chose Kevin Kolb over Vick at the start of that season. There’s value in knowing exactly what you’re going to get out of the quarterback position, especially in the passing game. The Eagles have that in Foles. Vick’s career has been marred by inconsistency and that continues.


" It’d be fine if it was effective, but rookie Nick Foles completely ate up the Bucs’ predictable coverage looks." Nick Foles isn't a rookie anymore.


Does this guy write with tea leaves?

How does he know Manning won't get hurt, or Kaepernick, or Wilson?

Who knows what the Playoff landscape will loll like personnel-wise?

Apparently, Bedard does!

One lump, or two?!


I just love it when writers try to downplay how good a team really is.  See you all in the play-offs, where the standings are moot.  0-0


I think this quote

 "which is what I suspected might happen before the season. They relied on too many players with troubling injury histories." 

is a little misleading.  It is very likely by playoff time the people that will be out will be Wilfork and Mayo, the 2 guys that have never missed time due to injury. It's a different argument bringing in Amendola and Gronk and Talib as they have injury history but that doe snot pertain the the main point fo the article which is the injuries will catch up with them in the playoffs.  They might but as of today the only 2 players guaranteed to be out for the playoffs are Mayo and Wilfork and would not call them players with "troubling injury histories"

If anything, these injury prone players missing time now increases the chance they are healthy and fresh for the playoffs.


@KCSVEN Right, guys with bad backs and torn muscles often get stronger as the weather is colder and field conditions harsher.